800 Words star Bri­die Carter on well­ness and re­silience

800 WORDS STAR BRI­DIE CARTER OPENS UP ABOUT THE DARK TIMES THAT MADE HER STRONGER, HOW BE­ING OUT­DOORS IS KEY TO HER WELL­BE­ING, AND WHY SHE’S SHIFTED HER BODY GOALS

Good Health Choices - - Contents -

It’s a chal­lenge find­ing time to look af­ter your­self when you’re su­per busy, al­though iron­i­cally that’s when you need it the most. For ac­tress Bri­die Carter, right in the mid­dle of what she de­scribes as the busiest time of her life, there isn’t much chance of achiev­ing a last­ing bal­ance be­tween work, fam­ily and me-time.

“My life is hec­tic and I ac­cept the chaos,” she says, cheer­fully.

Star­ring in TV drama has meant a long pe­riod of com­mut­ing from her home in ru­ral By­ron Bay to Auck­land, where the se­ries is filmed. Even if she can only make it back for 24 hours to be with her chil­dren, Bri­die says it’s worth jump­ing on a plane and head­ing across the Tas­man. And when she’s at home with sons Otis, 12, and To­bias, seven, they are her top pri­or­ity.

“I don’t sac­ri­fice my chil­dren for my­self,” she says. “In­stead of go­ing to a gym class, I’d choose to be with them. I think most work­ing par­ents can iden­tify with this; there’s not a lot of free time, you’re kind of last on the list.”

So there isn’t a hope of mak­ing it to the yoga and zumba classes she used to en­joy. Th­ese days the great out­doors is Bri­die’s gym. Af­ter star­ring in the iconic se­ries McLeod’s

Daugh­ters she fell in love with ru­ral life and now she and her hus­band, for­mer fash­ion de­signer Michael Wil­son, own and run a cat­tle farm and a fire­wood busi­ness. That means when she isn’t fo­cused on her ca­reer Bri­die can be found pack­ing fire­wood bags or out in a pad­dock bot­tle-feed­ing the pre­ma­ture calves. “I’m al­ways busy. If there’s a mo­ment to ex­er­cise I grab it. My favourite thing is to walk the bush track near where I live.”

Be­ing ac­tive and con­nect­ing with na­ture is vi­tal for her san­ity as well as her phys­i­cal fit­ness. “With health you can’t just look at one thing; each part of it con­nects to an­other. If I’m not ex­er­cis­ing I just don’t feel good. For me be­ing ac­tive is about get­ting out of my head and into my body. It’s about men­tal health, spir­i­tual health and all of that.”

Tough life lessons in her youth have taught Bri­die the im­por­tance of car­ing for her mind as well as her body. She was only nine when her mother died. Kiffy Rubbo was a well-known art cu­ra­tor in the 1970s, beau­ti­ful, tal­ented and very loved.

“She was an in­cred­i­ble woman, which makes it even sad­der,” says Bri­die.

As a child she coped by block­ing out her grief. But it never goes away and later on Bri­die went through some dark times. She came through it and, with help, has emerged a stronger and more com­pas­sion­ate per­son, liv­ing a life of so­bri­ety.

Italian in­flu­ence

“I know my­self pretty well now,” she says. “I think we’ve all got stuff from our child­hood but I’ve gone there, looked at it and moved on. I’m free of my past.”

Bri­die has been sober for 21 years now. She doesn’t judge oth­ers for en­joy­ing a glass of wine and usu­ally is the one to top up ev­ery­one’s glasses. “Ei­ther you’ve got a drink­ing prob­lem or you don’t,” she says, adamantly. “If you think you have then you prob­a­bly do. All I know is, I don’t do it.”

One legacy of her mother is a love of eat­ing healthily. There were never any fizzy drinks or junk food in their in­ner-city Mel­bourne home. “I grew up in a bo­hemian, artis­tic fam­ily so we weren’t al­lowed white bread or cor­dial,” Bri­die re­calls. “In­stead it was a jug of wa­ter with mint leaves and fresh lemon juice, and brown bread. As a teenager I wanted to eat rub­bish for a while but I’ve al­ways nat­u­rally craved healthy foods re­ally.”

The whole fam­ily is gluten-free and are pretty much sugar-free also. “But I’m not a nazi about it,” adds Bri­die, who is the cook in her house­hold. “I have Italian blood so for me food is about break­ing bread with peo­ple and shar­ing time. I’m into abun­dance in

‘For me be­ing ac­tive

is about get­ting out of my head and into my body’

my life, in good ways. You will find a se­cret stash of choco­late in our pantry!”

Fan fol­low­ing

Her boys, and 20-yearold step­son James, who also lives with them, all have vo­ra­cious ap­petites. “We sit down at the ta­ble ev­ery night and have a meal to­gether. No one is tak­ing plates into bed­rooms with iPads. That’s a part of well­be­ing too, con­nect­ing with oth­ers.”

At 46, Bri­die is in a very happy place. She looks great, with glow­ing skin (she swears by the SK11 range to hy­drate and nour­ish it), glossy hair and a still-girl­ish fig­ure. Still she ad­mits she’s had her wor­ries around self-im­age, just like ev­ery other woman.

“I have a curvy fig­ure, not a boy body with no hips; and I re­mem­ber be­ing younger and want­ing that. To­day, at my age, I hope I em­brace who I am, al­though I think if you’re com­pletely hon­est you’re al­ways aim­ing for some­thing.”

Rather than im­pos­si­ble slen­der­ness, she has more re­al­is­tic aims nowa­days – a body that’s strong and fit, prop­erly hy­drated and get­ting enough sleep. “Al­though there’s a say­ing, ‘no one ever died from lack of sleep’, and I’ve hung onto it many a time!”

One ad­van­tage of start­ing act­ing train­ing at the age of six is that she got an early ground­ing in re­lax­ation tech­niques. “I went to classes at Bouverie Street Theatre in North Carl­ton and can re­mem­ber ly­ing on the floor do­ing med­i­ta­tion and breath­ing,” says Bri­die who learned quickly that an ac­tor has two phys­i­cal tools, their body and their voice, and to do the job well it’s im­por­tant to look af­ter them.

Act­ing is how she earns a liv­ing and it’s also Bri­die’s passion. She’s loved her time on the hit show but the se­ries that oc­cu­pies the most spe­cial place in her heart is She may have given up play­ing Tess McLeod in 2006, but Bri­die still gets fan mail from all over the world and peo­ple still stop her in the street to tell her how much they loved it. It was also a show where strong friend­ships were formed and new pas­sions born.

“I loved mus­ter­ing cat­tle, that was my favourite thing,” says Bri­die. “Be­ing con­nected to the horse and the land, there was some­thing won­der­ful about that.” She laughs as she re­calls ex­ag­ger­at­ing her skills as a horse rider to get the role.

“Then Lisa Chap­pell (the Kiwi ac­tress who played her sis­ter Claire) and I were sent to a farm in the Hunter Val­ley and they put us on horses and videoed us. When they saw the footage ev­ery­one had heart at­tacks!” For­tu­nately there were real horse­men and women on hand to share their skills and by the time she left the se­ries, Bri­die was so com­fort­able on horse­back she’d stay up there be­tween takes.

“I was so sad say­ing good­bye to my beau­ti­ful horse when I left the show.”

Farm lessons

On her By­ron Bay cat­tle ranch there is plenty of land to ride, but Bri­die has been re­luc­tant to get horses as el­dest son Otis is se­verely al­ler­gic to them.

“We found that out in Italy when he was three,” she re­calls. “We were by the Span­ish Steps in Rome. They have th­ese horses and carts there and he was in my arms when I pat­ted one. As we started to walk up the steps, he had an al­ler­gic at­tack. The next mo­ment we were in a taxi on the way to the pae­di­atric hos­pi­tal.”

For­tu­nately Otis isn’t al­ler­gic to the cows Michael breeds on their large prop­erty. The boys are be­ing raised very much as ru­ral kids, out and about on the farm with their par­ents. “I love that they’re in na­ture all the time,” she says. “It’s so im­por­tant in this age we live in that is so filled with tech­nol­ogy.”

Farm­ing has taught her kids some valu­able life lessons of their own.

“It’s life and death out there. Last year we had a cow called Quee­nie (no, they don’t all have names!) that we had to put down and my kids were with us pat­ting her as we said good­bye. Then we buried her and ex­plained why it hap­pened. I think that’s a great thing for chil­dren.”

Hav­ing lost her own mum so young, Bri­die al­ways longed to be a mother her­self and now she trea­sures her fam­ily and the big, messy, busy, chaos of their lives to­gether.

“I’m a pretty grounded per­son,” she says. “But this is all a jug­gling act and I can only try to do my best. I never do it per­fectly but I do try!”

‘We have a meal to­gether

ev­ery night. That’s a part of well­be­ing too,

con­nect­ing’

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